London Olympia is getting a major makeover

Demolition of Olympia Central has now begun, signifying the start of the main construction work on Laing O’Rourke’s £600m contract.

Developers Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International (DFI) have signed up Trafalgar Entertainment as tenant of the site’s new 1,575-seat theatre, agreeing a 70-year lease. It will be the largest new permanent theatre of its kind to open in London since the National Theatre in 1976. 

Work is beginning on a total of seven new buildings, including two hotels and a 4,400 capacity live music venue. Completion is scheduled for 2024.

The existing Olympia Central Hall will be demolished while the structures of Olympia National and Olympia Grand, both Grade II listed, are being incorporated into the site’s overall redevelopment and will continue to host events while works are taking place.

Laing O’Rourke has already completed a year’s worth of enabling works on the site. Using Laing O’Rourke’s ‘design for manufacture & assembly’ approach, the buildings’ walls and floors, and a large proportion of their M&E services, will be manufactured offsite in a factory. This will reduce the number of vehicle movements and operatives on site.

The developers anticipate a total of 80,000 cubic metres of bulk excavation at the site. There will be 13 tower cranes and 10 hoists. This includes the tower crane currently installed to construct the Olympia West Hall which, at a reach of 75 metres, is the biggest on a non-infrastructure project in the UK, the developers say.

Yoo Capital managing partner Lloyd Lee said: “This is an important and historic moment in the redevelopment of Olympia. Olympia Central first opened in 1930 and now we bid farewell as we usher in an exciting new era for the site and London as a whole. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, works are well on schedule. In fact, from a construction perspective, we have been really fortunate and have taken maximum advantage of the exhibition areas being vacant so everyone on site has been able to spread out and maintain social distancing.”

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Gavin Neilan, co-founder and co-managing partner of DFI, added:  “Our investment into this project was predicated on our conviction that, while Olympia is a hugely important and iconic venue which has a rich and successful 130 year history, it still has tremendous untapped potential.

“Commencing construction today marks a significant step in realising our vision to truly unlock that potential by creating a vibrant new cultural, leisure and business hub for London, where visitors and office workers can enjoy a diverse spectrum of exceptional experiences and companies can showcase their products.  The number of exciting and high profile occupiers already signed up and the addition today of Trafalgar as the theatre operator, provide a clear demonstration that our vision to make Olympia’s next 130 years even more successful than its first, is shared.”

Further elements of the development are also under way, with various enabling works already completed. A new energy centre that provides heating for the whole development and cooling for the exhibition areas is nearing completion. Structural strengthening to the West Hall exhibition space, to allow for the two-storey music venue to be constructed above, will be completed in the coming weeks. And foundations for the theatre building and Olympia Roof Garden have begun.

Laing O’Rourke’s director of UK building, Paul McNerney, said: “This marks a significant milestone, allowing our team to progress to the main construction work after a year of successfully delivering significant enabling works, through a pandemic. We are proud of our appointment as construction partner. By harnessing our experience of complex and city-shaping projects together with our focus on modern methods of construction, we look forward to delivering this world-class complex for London and bringing Yoo Capital and DFI’s compelling vision to reality.”

The redevelopment is designed by Heatherwick Studio and SPPARC Architecture. Robert Bird is providing structural, civil, geotechnical and construction engineering services.

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